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Does Myopia Get Worse with Age?

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An optician is checking a female child's vision with possible myopia.

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition where distant objects may appear blurry, but close-up objects appear clear. Myopia is a common eye condition that typically starts in early childhood and may worsen as they grow older.

Young children may not know how to express vision problems, especially if they’re unaware something is wrong. This is why children’s eye exams are the best way to detect myopia. 

Causes of Myopia

When light enters the eye, it needs to bend, or refract, onto the retina at the back of the eye to create clear vision. With myopia, the eyeball is either too long or the cornea, (the transparent outer layer of the front of the eye that covers the colored iris), is too steeply curved.  This prevents light from reaching the retina properly, and causes blurry vision.

While myopia tends to develop in children, anyone can get it. 

Risk factors for developing myopia can include:

  • Age—Myopia may develop in children between ages 6–14 and continue into early adulthood.
  • Medical conditions—Adults can develop myopia from health conditions such as diabetes.
  • Family history—Your risk for developing myopia may increase if one or both parents are nearsighted. 

Signs & Symptoms of Myopia

Some children are born nearsighted, and others may develop it later. If you or your child experiences the following symptoms, reach out to your eye doctor to see if you are developing myopia:

  • Distant blurry vision
  • Partially closing the eyes or squinting to see better
  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty reading signs in the distance
  • Blurry vision in dim lighting
  • Difficulty driving at night

A child may indicate they have a vision problem if they are often:

  • Excessively squinting and blinking
  • Rubbing their eyes
  • Sitting too close to the television
  • Holding a book too close to their face
  • Unable to see the board at school
  • Unaware of distant objects

Why Myopia Worsens with Age

When you develop myopia as a child, it tends to worsen with age into your adolescent and teenage years. The abnormal eye structure can continue to grow as the child grows.

Myopia can stabilize in the late teens and early 20s when their eyes are done developing. After that, vision often stabilizes until age 40. 

Myopia progression varies in individuals and can be gradual or fast. In adults, myopia can develop as a result of other factors, like age, lifestyle, and environment.

For this reason, it’s essential to have annual adult and senior eye exams to look for vision problems and get a complete picture of your eye health.

A woman applies low-dose atropine eyedrops on her right eye to prevent worsening myopia.

What Happens if Myopia Progresses?

The more myopia progresses, the stronger your prescription will be. But myopia’s impact goes beyond having blurry vision.

The younger a child is when they develop myopia, the more likely they are to develop high myopia (a strong prescription). Once a person has developed high myopia, they are at a higher risk of developing further vision-threatening eye conditions. Continual elongation of the eye can lead to retinal stretching, which can lead to retinal detachment, which can cause permanent vision loss.

Without measures to slow myopia progression, children with myopia may be at higher risk of developing eye conditions later in life, such as glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachment, and macular degeneration. 

Treatment & Management of Myopia

Treating myopia in children can help prevent their vision from worsening. Prescription corrective lenses like eyeglasses and contact lenses can help them achieve clear vision by  focusing light correctly on the retina.  As children age, their prescription may worsen without the help of myopia control.

Refractive surgery is a treatment option for adults with myopia. Refractive surgery uses a laser to reshape the cornea, allowing light to focus correctly on the retina.

Slowing Myopia Progression

Myopia control strategies can include:

  • Multifocal contact lenses or specialty contact lenses to help slow myopia progression. 
  • Anti-Fatigue or EyeZen lenses to help reduce eye strain when doing up-close work and using digital devices.

How to Protect Your Vision

There is no sure way to prevent nearsightedness, but making lifestyle changes to protect your vision can decrease your risk of developing myopia and help prevent high-myopia:

Manage Myopia with Family Focus Eyecare

About 41.6% of Americans are nearsighted, and because childhood myopia often worsens with age, prevalence continues to increase, especially in this day and age with extensive electronic use. But rest assured:  there is still hope.

If you or your child develop symptoms of myopia, book an appointment with Family Focus Eyecare today. Early diagnosis, treatment, and management of this condition can help prevent it from worsening and minimize your risk of developing more serious conditions later in life.

Written by Dr. Joseph Rich

Dr. Joseph D. Rich moved to Columbia shortly after completing his doctorate at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. Growing up and completing his undergraduate work in biology, chemistry, and business management at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO, Dr. Rich considers himself a full-fledged Mizzou fan and actively enjoys going to as many games as possible.
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